Meet Shabana, Kerala nurse who is pillar of strength for the elderly

In a world that forgets to be kind often, its people like Shabana that remind us what it means to be human
Meet Shabana, Kerala nurse who is  pillar of strength for the elderly

KOCHI: Chakkiamma, 73, sits patiently on the verandah of her worn-down house, her silver hair held together by a bun. The lower half of her body is paralysed. Chakkiamma’s eyes impatiently search for Shabana and when the elderly woman sees her approaching her from a distance, she welcomes her with open arms and a tight long hug.

Like Chakkiamma, six others including Janu and Madhuettan await Shabana’s arrival daily. For the last ten years, the Malappuram-native has been a pillar of strength for many elderly, who were abandoned in their own homes by their families or left on the streets, or are unmarried, widows or by a stroke of bad luck, were left to struggle alone in life. For them, Shabana is the daughter they never had, who ensures their chores are done, a light at the end of the tunnel.

Shabana, who worked as a nurse at the dental department, is now the soul of Tirurangadi. “While I was working, I used to assist doctors and palliative care staff at the homes of the elderly. During those visits, I realised that though they are being given monthly check-ups and fed medicines on time, they lacked daily care, someone to help them take a bath, trim their hair, listen to their worries and give them company. These small things make a big difference in their lives, especially during the pandemic days,” says Shabana.

During the first lockdown, Shabana, a mother of two, left her job and started her daily visits to the homes where she was needed. “I spend around five hours with them every day. They don’t have big demands. Apart from a few health-related queries, they just need a hug, someone to talk to, a chance to eat their favourite food, hear a song on the radio, or someone to take a picture with them. I am blessed to be able to give them that,” says Shabana.

Shabana won’t allow just anyone to drop their parents or relatives under their care. She does a thorough background check, and if she realises their case is genuine, then she takes responsibility. “If they have children or family members to take care, I refuse to care for them. If these elderly men and women could look after each of their kids, then why can’t the kids do the same for them? But if the elderly are living under distress or being treated badly by their family, then I step in,” she adds.

She pays daily visits to homes in her neighbourhood. She makes occasional visits to homes that are far away. “I got a call once asking to help an old woman who was completely bedridden. There was a hole on her bed, and a tub underneath to collect her urine and faeces. Her relatives visited her to give her food, but no one was ready to clean her or her room. For over two weeks, she was lying in her own filth, covered in worms. I was shocked to see the sight. I cleaned her up and asked the family members to look after her, but they weren’t willing. It’s been five years and she is safe under my assistance,” says Shabana. If she cannot care for them daily, Shabana takes them to an old age home. Nevertheless, she visits them often to ensure their well-being.

Those fighting cancer, paralysis, kidney problems are also taken care of. Shabana also looks after people whose families cannot afford their treatment.

Kindness that keeps going

There have been instances where she had to provide last rites to those who are abandoned or perform cremation for unidentified bodies at the mortuary. She does this after receiving the necessary official permissions.

“I once rescued a paralysed destitute. She was a Brahmin who converted to Islam. During her last days, she offered her veil to me and asked me to keep it as a memory, I wear it as often as I can,” Shabana says. The kind heart has plans to start a centre for such people.

“Everyone should have someone in their life they can rely on, no one should slip into loneliness. I get to spend only a few hours with them now, but once I start a centre, I can be there for them always,” concludes Shabana.


Shabana provides a Rs 1,000 kit to the elderly monthly, which comprises medicines, snacks and other essentials. “Since I’ve been working for a decade now, people trust my services. Several good samaritans send me modest donations too. So far, I have been able to run things well. I also keep an eye out for government aids for the elderly,” says Shabana.

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The New Indian Express